We have been studying Pentecost, otherwise known as Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, as one of God’s appointed times (mo’ed). Shavuot is considered the day on which Judaism was born (the Age of Law). Pentecost is considered the day on which the Church was born (the Age of Grace). In this way, Pentecost has already marked the beginning and ending of several dispensations.
Will a future Pentecost mark another dispensation change?
This is the main question I am setting out to answer with this study series, and for that we need to review what dispensations are.
What Are the Dispensations?
God’s revelation and dealings with humanity can be broadly separated into “ages”. It is progressive in nature, as each “dispensation”, or “age”, unfolds into the next. This is the basis for Dispensational Theology. It’s not perfect, but it helps us grasp how God has progressively revealed Himself and His redemption plan to humanity.
Jack Kelley at GraceThruFaith explains dispensationalism in this way:
Dispensationalism is a method for interpreting the Bible. The Greek word from which we get dispensation appears only 7 times in the New Testament and is only translated as such in four of those, all by Paul and all in the King James (1 Cor. 9:17, Ephes. 1:10, Ephes. 3:2, Colossians 1:25). Other meanings of this word are stewardship, administration, and economy.
A dispensationalist believes that God has dealt with humanity in different ways at different times—revealing to us His character and His plan for mankind. These different periods of time are called dispensations.
Some say that dispensationalism is a relatively modern system of theology first proposed by John Nelson Darby in the mid-1800s. But evidence that the early church believed in the principles of dispensationalism can be found in the 2nd Century writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Justin Martyr saw four distinct periods (dispensations) and gave them the names of the principle players, Adam to Abraham; Abraham to Moses; Moses to Christ; and Christ to Eternity. Irenaeus also saw four periods, from the Creation to the Flood, from the Flood to the Law, from the Law to the Gospel, and from the Gospel to Eternity.
More recently most scholars have settled on seven dispensations. Each one has begun with an agreement between God and man that man has subsequently broken, causing the agreement to fail and requiring a judgment. Here are the seven dispensations in chronological order.
1) Innocence: Between the Creation and the Fall of Man in the Garden
God interacted freely and personally with Adam and Eve during this period. Then they broke the only rule He had given them (Genesis 3:11-13) and were expelled from the Garden. Sin entered the world.
2) Conscience: Between the Fall and the Flood
God allowed man’s conscience to govern his behavior without Divine interference. Because of the sin nature passed down from mankind’s first parents, the result was that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God pronounced judgment upon the world and destroyed all but 8 members of the human race in the Great Flood.
3) Human Government … From the Flood to Abraham
After the flood, God told Noah to go forth and replenish the Earth (Genesis 9:7). Noah’s descendants disobeyed God’s commandment, setting about instead to build a great city and tower from which to study the stars (Genesis 11:4). God confused man’s language, causing them to stop building the tower, and scattered them through out the world (Genesis 11:8-9).
4) Promise: From Abraham to Moses
God promised Abraham a homeland for his descendants (Genesis 17:8) and a son for him and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-16). But they grew tired of waiting and produced a son on their own, who they named Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-2.15). When God’s promised son Isaac was born, Ishmael was sent away (Genesis 21:8-13) causing enmity between the Jews (descendants of Isaac) and Arabs (descendants of Ishmael) that continues to this day. After Mohammed, a descendant of Ishmael’s, founded Islam this enmity took on religious significance and became even more intense.
5) Law: From Moses to Jesus
God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and promised the Jews a life of peace and plenty in a Kingdom of their own if they obeyed (Exodus 19:5, Exodus 20:1-17). After repeated periods of disobedience which included rejecting their Messiah King, God withdrew His offer of the Kingdom and expelled them from their land (Matt. 21:43, Luke 19:41-44).
6) Grace: From Pentecost to the Rapture—the Church Age
No longer requiring righteousness through works, God granted a righteousness by grace through faith in the completed work of Christ to all who accept, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:21-24). Most will not accept and will be punished through eternity.
Note: It’s important to realize that Grace didn’t replace Law, it just interrupted it. Law has another 7 years to run, called Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9:24-27), which fills the time between the Rapture and the 2nd Coming. During this time all the nations to which Israel has been scattered will be completely destroyed and Israel will be disciplined in preparation for receiving the Kingdom (Jeremiah 30:4-11).
7) The Kingdom: The 1000 Year Reign of Christ that begins with the 2nd Coming
This time Israel will accept the Kingdom offer (Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 14:8-9). Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:2), all unbelievers will be expelled from the planet (Matt. 25:41-46), and God will once again dwell in the midst of His people (Ezek. 43:6-7). You’d think the world could finally live in a manner pleasing to God. But we can’t. Eventually, with the exception of Israel, the world will rebel against God and His people. God will send fire to consume them all (Rev. 20:7-10).
A chart demonstrating these 7 dispensations would look like this:
We will examine Dispensational Theology in more depth another time, but for today let’s examine how the Feast of Pentecost fits in to a discussion of Dispensations. The only two dispensations connected to Pentecost are Law and Grace (Church Age).
Shavuot – The Dispensation of Law Begins
Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is a memorial to the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. According to Hebrew4Christians, Shavuot at Mount Sinai is considered the day on which Judaism was born. This is what we refer to as the giving of the Covenant of Moses, or the Laws of Moses. We discussed this more fully in Part 1, The Giving of the Law, The Giving of Grace.
What is notable is that the Dispensation of Law ended on the day it began – Pentecost.
Pentecost – The Dispensation of Grace Begins
On the celebration of this feast day after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ in power and as a seal. Thus, Pentecost is associated with the “birthday of the Church”. In the church age, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the spirit behind the letter of the Law. We refer to this as the age (or dispensation) of Grace. Again, we discussed this more fully in Part 1, The Giving of the Law, The Giving of Grace.
Our question here is, will the Dispensation of Grace end on the day it began – Pentecost?
Pentecost – The Dispensation of Law + Grace Begins???
Once the Church Age ends with the removal of the Restrainer (the indwelling, sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit), it seems that salvation will be similar to how it was in the Old Testament under the Law. The Holy Spirit will not be “gone” from the Earth, and He will still be involved in convicting of sin and leading people to repentance. Salvation, as always, will be by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
However, it will be necessary to act out that faith, as per the parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25. Believers will be held accountable for what they do, or do not do, as if it were for Jesus Himself. It seems Tribulation-Age Saints will need to pray for God not to take His Holy Spirit from them as David did:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12 ESV
The Tribulation Saints will be responsible for remaining faithful in the face of severe deprivation and persecution. The question is, when will the Grace Dispensation end and the Tribulation Dispensation begin?
Conceptions and Births
We mentioned above, that Shavuot, or the giving of the Law, was the “birth of Judaism”. We also mentioned that Pentecost, or the giving of the Holy Spirit, was the “birth of Christianity”. As Scottie Clarke has pointed out so succinctly… was this our birthday… or our conception? What do you think?
If the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai was the conception of Judaism, was it birthed in fullness with the start of Christianity? One might consider that to be true in some sense, as Christ was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17 ESV
One might then wonder… what will happen at the fulfillment of the church age? The end times revolve around a theme of birth, birth pains, and deliverance. More on that can be found here: Braxton Hicks, Labor Pains, and the Time of the End.
The Rapture of Enoch
Only two humans have ever been translated to heaven alive, bypassing death. One of these is the Patriarch Enoch, who came before the global flood. The other is Elijah, who was one of the Old Testament Prophets. As far as I know, there is no mention of what day Elijah was raptured. There is, however, tradition surrounding Enoch’s rapture. Jack Kelley writes about it here:
By tradition, Enoch, one of the patriarchs from Genesis 5, was born on the day later to be known as Pentecost. Enoch’s name means “teaching,” a primary function of the Church (Matt. 28:19-20). For this reason many scholars see him as a “type” of the church as well. Genesis 5:21-23 indicates that Enoch had a close relationship with God and was actually taken live (raptured) into Heaven before the Great Flood. Pre-Trib scholars see this event as one of several Old Testament hints that the Church will disappear from Earth before the Great Tribulation.
These same traditions also hold that Enoch was taken on his birthday. So here’s a man, identified with the Church, perhaps being born and raptured on the day that would become Pentecost, the day the Church was born. Will the Church be raptured on our birthday, too?
The scripture passage is found here:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:21-24 ESV
From Scripture itself, all we know is that Enoch was raptured before the flood. We don’t know his birthday or which date he was taken from the Bible – this information comes from extrabiblical texts so should be taken with a grain of salt.
Interestingly, Enoch lived 365 years, which is the number of days in our post-flood calendar year. His son, Methuselah, was the longest-lived human. Methuselah’s name means “his death shall bring judgment”, and in the year when Methuselah died, the flood came. I always wondered if there was a connection between the gap of time between Enoch’s rapture and the coming of the flood – the gap is 669 years. Perhaps you can figure something out!
Besides the birthday connections, the Bible does contain some prophecies about Pentecost. Let’s examine these next!
Main Pentecost Study Menu: Everything You Need to Know About Pentecost, the Feast that Ties It All Together For The Church
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
What Are the 7 Dispensations? (GraceThruFaith)
What are the 7 Dispensations? (Gotquestions)
Meaning of the Names in Genesis 5 – God’s Redemption Story (Chuck Missler)
Does Scripture Support a Pentecost Rapture? (PDF – T.W. Tramm)
The Feast of Pentecost (GraceThruFaith)
Shavuot – Revelation and the Fruit of the Spirit (Hebrew4Christians)
The Mystery of Pentecost (Prophecy Watchers)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!